Rangers of the North
Dúnedain of Gondor
The Dúnedain form the ruling class of southern Gondor. They constitute the remnants of the political community through which and for which the realm of Gondor came into existence. As the heirs of Númenor, the Dúnedain enjoy the distinction of an increased lifespan, a bequest of Ilúvatar and the Valar. Dúnadan stalwarts tout this gift as evidence of their natural right to claim the title “Kings of Men.” In time, though, their numbers and longevity decreased over time as a consequence of war, intermarriage, and disease, and the Dúnedain struggled to maintain their supremacy and distinct character. It was a losing a cause. Nevertheless, they continued to heroically strive for the perpetuation of their realm and for their vision of a world redeemed from the sins of their Númenórean ancestors.
SOCIETY AND CULTURE
Since the raising of Andor from out of the deeps of the sea, the Men of the West have led a dual existence, which has ever haunted their efforts at founding realms in Middle-earth. The most important marker of Dúnadan peoplehood—their longevity— is not wholly subject to their control. For this reason, the very source of stability in Númenórean society is fated to be an ever-present source of conflict and turmoil. Longevity is the mark of divine grace that was bestowed upon the Three Houses of the Edain and their descendants. In addition to its effects on the peculiar continuity of their lineage and family structure, longevity offers the Dúnedain —with an
unparalleled matter-of-factness and unassailable physical immediacy— validation and legitimacy for their claims to dominion over the lands and peoples that comprise southern Gondor.
Their longevity is transmitted through blood, and is therefore a thing to be conserved and protected through marriage laws and the power of the kinship group; however, because the gift of long life was in origin a reward to the Edain for the tightness of their actions, it may also be withdrawn as a punishment for wrongdoing, and for the treason of their homeland Númenor, even the Faithful exiles must suffer. The relationship between human agency and the withdrawal of grace in the gradual decline of Númenórean longevity in southern Gondor is a tangled skein beyond the wisdom of even the wisest of loremasters. The civil war of the Kin-strife, which heralded southern Gondor’s decline, thrust before their faces the self-destructive violence which might erupt over disagreements about the destiny and role of the Dúnedain in a changing world.
During the period of T.A. 1448-2050, the longevity gap between Dúnedain of pure (or nearly pure) lineage and those whose lineage had experienced intermarriage within two generations was still less than that existing between these latter “half-bloods” and the common folk of southern Gondor. By the third generation, longevity declined noticeably more swiftly, but by the fifth or sixth generations no further decline would be in evidence.
Legal definitions of a Dúnadan, however, drew tighter as a high degree of pure blood became grounds for a feudal grant. As more and more of the realm became enfiefed, the noble families
were able to exercise greater power over royal pronouncements concerning inheritance rights and lineage prerogatives. The struggle to preserve their longevity through defensive kinship
practices is perhaps the most critical force driving the society of the Dúnedain from within, even if it has little effect on how the vast majority of southern Gondor’s population lives out its day-to-day life.
The Dúnedain of southern Gondor uphold the religious traditions of unfallen Númenor, acknowledging Ilúvatar to be the one true God, abiding by the divinely ordained authority of
the king as defender and executor of their laws, and fulfilling the ritual stipulations that accompany their national and ancestral cults. In his priestly capacity, the king acts as the exclusive mediator of divine grace upon the realm and the sole supplicant of his people before Ilúvatar, for the well-being of land and people together constitute the central object and concern of Númenórean religion.
Although all the folk of southern Gondor observe and participate in the traditional Númenórean holy days—Erukyermë, Erulaitalë, and Eruhantalë-—all ritually-effective action is vested in
the person of the king himself, and the two most hallowed sites of sacred power in the realm—the grave of Elendil upon Amon Anwar and the High Hallow on Mount Mindolluin—are forbidden to all save the king and those whom he chooses to accompany him. It is for this reason that the only practical expression of piety available to the Dúnedain (much less the commoners) is constant reverence and unswerving loyalty to the royal house. But the foregoing portrait is an overstatement, for Imrazôr’s covenant with the Lady of the Seas, which predates the sacral role of Elendil’s sons by more than a thousand years, was never wholly displaced by the foundation of the realm in S.A. 3320. Imrazôr’s heirs among the princely line of Belfalas continue to function as the mediators of Uinen’s grace to the Faithful in southern Gondor.
Númenórean religiosity has not always assumed this form. Prior to the Downfall, the Valar maintained a physical presence in the world, and often rendered their power directly available
to the Dúnedain without the necessary mediation of their king; but the Great Rift by which Ilúvatar destroyed Númenor also definitively sundered the Valar from Mortal Men, and the few
remaining people, artifacts, and places capable of channeling that divine power are jealously guarded and rarely revealed even to the Faithful. The ultimate consequence of this separation for
the Dúnedain is that the blessings of their invisible God, Ilúvatar, can now be made manifest to a darkened world only through the visible sign of his lingering grace—namely, the survival of the realm and the continued longevity of its rulers, the Dúnedain themselves.
The Númenórean exiles have found the defense of their realm to be a matter of the greatest importance. Ever since the foundation of Gondor and Arnor, the Dúnedain have cultivated
their martial skills to a state of constant readiness. At times, martial virtues have devalued other equally important qualities in the Númenórean character, but for the most part this
privileging of the warrior has left the realm standing when it might otherwise have fallen into oblivion.
A heavily-armored infantry makes up the backbone of Dúnadan warcraft, exploiting as it does the fact that the Dúnedain are physically taller than the vast majority of their opponents, and thus have the advantage of greater reach in close quarter fighting. The central importance of infantry formations also reflects the coastal (rather than inland) locus of Númenórean colonization in Middle-earth. With the sea and reliable naval support at their backs, the Dúnedain traditionally favored military tactics oriented towards concerted defense of walled settlements, rather than mounted warfare suited to the wide landward expanses of Endor. In order to offset any advantages
this might give to a mounted enemy on the open field, the Dúnedain often employed the services of auxiliary cavalry companies supplied by allied peoples.
The basic gear of the Dúnadan foot-soldier consists of helm, shield, and chainmail hauberk, all wrought of resilient Númenórean steel. His chief weapons are the short, one-handed spear (for use in large-scale battle formations and shield walls), and the eket (a short, double-edged thrusting sword used for melees). Infantry cohorts are typically supported by companies of less heavily armored archers, armed with ekets and Númenórean steel bows, whose arrows are capable of penetrating nearly any type of armor. Weighted down with armor and weapons, the Dúnadan foot soldier is capable of marching twenty-five miles in a day without exhaustion (and many more
when need is pressing).
Dúnadan military structure is twofold, reflecting the status gulf that divides commoners from the nobility. Soldiers of common descent can often acquire high office in their own chain of command, but such men are never elevated above the ranks of noblemen without becoming ennobled themselves.
Occasionally, enlargement of one’s status based on military service leads to landed titles, but more often it results in a “household” knighthood; that is, of being incorporated into a
knightly order attached to the king of Gondor or one of its princes. Household knights generally fight in their own companies, and often serve as guards or escorts for the king on the
battle-field. Attainment of knightly rank, however, involves a lengthy probationary period during which one serves as ohtar (Q. “esquire”) to a full knight. Only upon completion of this
stage (often a matter of years) may the individual receive the title of roquen (Q. “knight”). Requain are distinguished in battle by possession of an anket, or great sword, though they also wield the eket.
Of all mortal races, the Dúnedain most nearly approximate the stature and beauty of the Eldar, with whom their ancestors had great friendship. These bodily markers of difference from other Men are essential elements of the self-understanding of the Dúnedain, and are for them a matter of both personal prestige and public censure.
Firstly and foremostly, Dúnedain are noticeably taller than the rest of southern Gondor’s inhabitants, typically rising a full six inches above the heads of their inferiors (average: 6’4" for men, 5’11" for women). Their fair skin and lack of facial hair similarly is for them an outward sign of the inward purity of their blood. Often, a man of less than pure lineage will take great pains to keep himself clean-shaven in order to appear nobler than he actually is. Their straight hair also lacks the appearance of admixture, and tends to be either black or (less frequently) golden. Their clear eyes tend to be sea-grey in hue. Finally, although their longevity may decline to little more than that of Lesser Men, Dúnedain retain their health and vigor to a much greater age.
The style and poise with which the Dúnedain bear their physical graces is finely honed. Dúnedain prefer to allow their hair to grow long (for men, to their shoulders; for women, to their waist), but tend to hold it in check with a fillet rather than by braids or a pony-tail. Their clothing alternately projects an aura of leisure, command, or disciplined restraint. Distinctive lineage emblems or crests make it possible for others to instantly calculate how a given individual ought to be regarded and addressed in public.
(Source: ICE MERP #2020)
Baran Sîdhoneth – a disowned minor noble-born son living as a caravan guard and mercenary